Family Game Night 1

Here’s a fun little card game we’ve been enjoying recently; it’s called COUP. Full of lying and deception as each player tries to outwit their opponent. Fun and fast paced. Each player gets two cards and each card has certain abilities and can cancel out others. Gather enough coins for a coup and take out other player’s cards, steal other player’s coins or flat out assassinate your opponent. Each game lasts about 15 minutes so you’re not stuck in a game all night. Once you lose both cards, you are out the game. 2 to 6 players. Box says 13 and above but we have no problem with younger players. (say 8) I give it 5 stars out of 5.


Card characters and abilities. 

Your Worst Experience 

Well school is well underway and with it is my son’s first essay of the year. His task: Write about your worst experience.  Enjoy.

Far Fence

Last year, a catastrophic event ensued because my mom had the idea of cycling on the levee in the midst of the summer heat. My family and I thought it was a brilliant idea as we were driving toward Baton Rouge. However, we could not have been farther from the truth. As we were preparing to start the event, we found that my sister’s bicycle tire was flat and that she could not ride. As a result, she and my dad left to repair her tire. After she departed, the remainder of our group (my mom, Ms. Andrea, Andre, and I) finally set off on our bicycle trail.

The following hours were some of the most strenuous and physically exhausting that I had ever experienced. It seemed as though the cycling trip went on forever, riding up and down the levee in the summer heat with little water. The only thing keeping our group going, apart from my mom, was the promise of a break once we reached our destination. We cycled and cycled, tiring by the minute, but we were still moving forward. Slowly, everyone’s temperament started to change as fatigue and frustration built. The whole group was ready to reach the park and to take a break.

We had a terrible realization once we cycled the distance to the park. Although my mom presented our destination as a place of rest, in reality, it was Farr Park Equestrian Center. In other words, the “park” was a fence. As a result of this conclusion, many emotions rose up inside me, chief among them being anger and disappointment. As soon as I realized the truth, I biked as quickly as I could in the opposite direction to leave that forsaken place, which I dubbed “Far Fence.” Following in my wake was my mom, who was full of mirth because of my sudden outburst. Unfortunately, Far Fence had one last event for us to remember it by, Andre soon fell ill with heat exhaustion. Finally, after the cycling trip of the decade, we were able to leave Far Fence and were able to have as much water and sleep as we wanted.

Dad’s Note:

While my daughter and I made an honest effort to get her bike fixed, it was Sunday and all the shops were closed. We ended up getting ice cream and visiting the LSU tiger instead. 

This is still an issue in my household. 

 

Call of the Wild and Leadership

I must admit, I’ve been away from WordPress for quite awhile. Things get hectic and work’s been a absolute bear. And with work comes leadership training.  One requirement for the leadership course was a book essay. I took a different path from the regular leadership books and read and wrote about Call of the Wild. I’d thought I’d share.

Call of the Wild

A Leadership Perspective

Jack London 1903

1 Minute Summary

The story Call of the Wild is written from the perspective of a dog named Buck. Buck is a porch dog of Saint Bernard and Scottish Shepard mix who watches over his master’s estate in California. He is kidnapped one night by a servant and sold to traders to be taken to the Northern territory to work as a sled dog in the harsh conditions in the 1800 Yukon gold rush. Buck has to overcome many obstacles and hardships. He learns of cruelty and survival. Through the course of the book, Buck shows his tenacity and leadership. He becomes part of a team, eventual leader, and faces insurmountable challenges. He is eventually saved from a certain death and becomes loyal to his final owner. Buck is drawn to the Arctic wilderness and eventually becomes leader of a pack of wolves and fully evolves from a domestic dog to answer the Call of the Wild.

Buck’s Leadership Qualities and the Team He Leads

Buck changes throughout the story from a pampered Southern house dog into the leader of a pack of sled dogs. Buck proved that he could become a leader by adapting to his surroundings and situations, learning from his teammates, coordinating his team of sled dogs, and by attempting to accomplish his given tasks regardless of the effort it might take. Buck demonstrated his ability to adapt both mentally and physically, with examples being his use of creativity to defeat Spitz and needing to eat less as time passed with him in the Yukon. Buck was capable of learning from both his situation and his teammates to survive in his new environment; his usage of sleeping in the snow (which was first practiced by his fellow sled dogs) is an example of this capability. Buck showed leadership skills in coordinating his team of sled dogs after taking over Spitz’s position as lead dog, as before he accomplished this task the dogs were not working together productively. Finally, Buck demonstrated his determination when he was owned by the Scott, heedless of the weight of the load he was pulling or of the distance he had to travel; Buck never gave up or stopped working.

Buck constantly had to deal with change. Even at the end of the book, Buck went through a transition phase where he would go back and forth from the wild to his domestic life until finally reaching the point in which he makes the decision to stay with his wolf pack.

The Team

Just as we all have served on diverse teams, Buck too was no different. His team consisted of: 

Spitz: Original dog sled leader and Buck’s rival who lead with fear and intimidation.

Curly: Buck’s first friend on the team and a bit naive.

Dave: Another of Buck’s first companions and one of the most knowledgeable sled dogs. Dave comes to life when he is in the harness, motivated and takes pride in his work.

Sol-leks: Like Dave, he is aloof until attached to the sled. He has suffered poor treatment in the past.

Billie: Good-natured and sweet, shows Buck how to make a bed in the snow. Billie is a friendly and helpful member of the team.

Joe: Billie’s brother and is always snarling and defensive.

Pike: Often referred to as “the malingerer.” He rarely gets up on time, steals food and generally undermines the expedition. When Buck becomes leader, he forces Pike to shape up and become a helpful member of the team.

Dub: The awkward goof ball of the team.

When we examine all the members of Buck’s team, we can relate each of them to similar people who have served on teams with us.

Biography of Jack London

London is a San Francisco native, born in the late 1800’s and was a traveler and adventurer in his youth. London not only traveled on trains and ships, but also participated in the Yukon gold rush. London used these experiences for inspiration in his stories. Writing and getting published greatly disciplined London and because of this, he made it a practice to write at least a thousand words a day. Jack London is recognized in literature more for his inspirational stories about man and nature than for his literary prowess.

Why I chose the book

While helping my son study for his English courses, we came into the discussion of the book Call of the Wild. I had remembered the book from school when I was younger, but I didn’t think I was ever required to read it. In our talks, I developed a fondness for the book and put it on my list of “Things to Read.” I had always heard the book mentioned when people discussed leadership, so I took the opportunity not only to read the story of a dog named Buck and his call to the wild but to use it to discuss life’s lessons and leadership.

Happy Hallowtween

Here I am, both my kids are tweens and trying to find their place with the holiday.  I think they are getting a little old for Halloween (it seems to be centered around the little tykes) but I can see their struggle with still wanting that bit of childhood.  Maybe I just wanted to sit at home with a big bucket of popcorn and watch scary movies this time. We still had the dilemma of picking that perfect costume. Over the years we’ve been bugs, princesses, pirates, ninjas, witches, fairies, zombies, Roman soldiers, and the Grimm Reaper. The corn mazes seem to be done but we are slowly moving to the haunted houses. (with much trepidation) Any other readers at this phase? How do you do Halloween? Maybe it’s time for house parties and sleep overs?

Geocaching

Perhaps the biggest kept secret for a free family fun time is Geocaching. If you have not heard of this by now, Google or YouTube it for more information. It is filled with videos to get you started and gives tutorials and strategies. Basically it’s a big scavenger hunt using GPS coordinates to find caches hidden all over the place (and by all over the place, I mean all over the world) and pretty much all you need is a smartphone. See the website geocaching.com to sign up for free and get started. It has map applications and you can get a good idea of where the caches are located in your area. Also, go to your app center and find a good app for your smartphone. There are a few rules. You have to register and download the coordinates (caches) Many handheld gps units have a geocache feature. Also, upon finding a cache, you have to sign (if they have a sign sheet) and take an item from the find, as well as, leave an item for the next seeker. At the end of the day, you should log back in (geocaching.com) and record all your finds. It can even get advanced where an item from a cache has to make its way to a final destination by way of “cache hopping” or a cache can just be a clue to finding the final treasure. My kids really love it, whether it’s an ammo box out in the woods, or a micro cache with a magnet stuck under a park bench. Great outdoor fun. Reminds me a bit of Pokemon Go. 

App-ally Distracted 

In my house, spelling test can be a problem, and in my daughter’s case, you would have thought I asked her to cut off an arm instead of writing her spelling words. Such a drama queen. Lucky for me, I found just the app I was looking for. “My Spelling Test” was an app that allowed me to input her spelling words into my tablet and then it would call them out for her to spell. At the end, it would give the score. You can practice over and over with no pressure and make a game out of studying for spelling. Check out the apps, there may be the right one for you.

Rafting the Pigeon

It was the end of this recent May and school just couldn’t finish fast enough for the start of summer. The plan was already set up long ago for this moment; a trip to the Tennessee Mountains for a rafting trip with the kidos.

After a family pow-wow and sizing up the skill level of the children, as well as, a good guess on how long we thought they could be on a river, we chose the Upper Pigeon River.

The Pigeon River flows through a beautiful area in the Great Smoky Mountains near part of the Appalachian Trail and is a great place for beginners. Its flow is controlled by the hydroelectric dam in western North Carolina (right on the state line.) For rafting purposes, the river is divided into the Upper and Lower sections. The Lower section features gentle waves and beautiful scenery. We did this portion when my son was just a toddler. “Such a great run to get their little feet wet.”

This time we were doing the Upper section that begins at the powerhouse and features Class III-IV whitewater rapids. We booked the trip through the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Gatlinburg (NOC) that just so happened to have “half off” the regular price. (We had a great experience with these guides and would definitely book with them again)
20160531_131830NOC river site

Well the day was beautiful, the kids were excited, and the water was perfect. Everyone put in at the hydroelectric dam. We were off. First rapid right off the bat is PowerHouse (class 4) and everyone got wet. Then it became a scenic world wind ride through: Aftershave (class 2), Second Helping (class 3), Vegematic (class 3), Big Bend (class 3), Roller Coaster (class 3), Lost Guide (class 4) “funny because a raft did lose a guide here on our trip”, Rooster Tail (class 3), and Accelerator (class 4). Lastly, there is a swimming hole float area so the kids can have a bit of fun in the water. Because they haul you on a bus to get to the Put-In spot, you end where you parked your car. (very small town)
20160601_092005The Bean Tree Cafe
20160601_1345352
This area is quite nice and you can zip-line if you like. We made our way to The Bean Trees Café for burgers. They have a deck on the river and you can watch the other rafts come in. It was such a great adventure.
Oh, did I mention that the river guides were AWESOME.
20160601_091802

Best Toy in the Toy Chest

I’m a big LEGO fan but perhaps the best toy in the toy chest is the all wood constructed “Quadrilla” marble run set by Hape Toys. Hape is a creator of high-quality developmental products for early learners with a focus on using natural materials and water-based paints with a detail-oriented approach (Perfect for the families who like the “Hands On” learning experience.)

Our Quadrilla set was first purchased from the Learning Express, now gone from Baton Rouge. This set can truly grow with your kids from about the age of 2 through adulthood. If you still enjoy building puzzles, you will enjoy building with these blocks with or without your children. In fact, if you take away the marbles for a couple of years, your infant can play with the primary colored painted blocks till they are ready for construction.

Young children will need the help of adults for construction but the instructions are a step by step picture guide on stacking the blocks with the spacers and the rails for the marble runs. Expansion sets are also available, even ones with musical bars, so when the marble hits it, it plays a musical note.The blocks themselves are all different which adds to the fun. Some have an internal switch that diverts the marble to either side. Some just drop straight through and others shoot the marble to the right or left. They even have a teeter totter and spiral tracks. 
If it’s a long rainy day, we play for hours. There are even more instructions online or you can make up your own and put those online for others to build.
A true Montessori approach to learning.
We have many fond memories of family constructions as well as disasters. 

My 7 Mistakes of Having a Website (Continued)

7.    I’m Not as Funny as I Thought I Was.   

“You cut me deep, Shrek. You cut me real deep just now.”
This was perhaps my hardest lesson. “Build it and they will come” I thought. But this was not the case. “I can write funny stories” “My friends think I’m funny”

Where is everyone? Wow, does everyone have a website or blog? Yes, as a matter of fact, they do. The competition can be fierce.

So far, (still new here) I will just keep plugging away and listen to advice from others on how to improve and increase traffic. In the meantime, I will just keep writing and improving my skills and make friends along the way. As Dory says, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming.”

My 7 Mistakes of Having a Website (Continued)

5.  Stay True. 
It’s not about the site, it’s about the content.

I’m still learning this one. I am like one big kid in a candy store. Any new bell or whistle and I am all over it. Putting a widget here, a calendar there, a twitter feed shoved God knows where. Think about it. Does it add to my website? Do I really want Twitter or Instagram linked? I mean children are beautiful but not everyone wants every picture of your kids.

Stay true to your site and your “niche.” Don’t try to be too cute and look for that quick fix. If you are blogging about some particular topic, stay with it. That is what your followers are here for. I myself, came to WordPress.com to focus on “Family, kids, family travel, and healthy life choices” and look, I am already writing articles on my mistakes. “Focus Mike, Focus.”

Author’s Note:  To the young readers, this is how we use to communicate back in grade school before texting. (see pic)